This is Weight Loss Success with Natalie Brown, episode 23.
Welcome to Weight Loss Success with Natalie Brown. If you’re a successful woman who is ready to stop struggling with your weight, you’re in the right place. You’ll learn everything you need to know to lose weight for the last time in bitesize pieces. Here’s your host, certified life and weight coach Natalie Brown.
Hello everybody. The lucky winner of this week’s Natalie’s favorite things gift is Lexi. Lexi’s review is titled “The best tips on health ever.” Wow, ever. That is high praise indeed, Lexi.
So here’s what she had to say. “I recently decided that part of getting me to start living a more healthy lifestyle is to listen to one podcast a day to help my mind get into the right place. Sometimes, the other hour-long podcasts are just too long. But the Weight Loss Success podcast episodes are just the right amount. Also, every single podcast is mind-blowing. Natalie does a great job of understanding how to help us choose to live a healthy life. My favorite is when she talks about the toddler brain. This podcast is great for everyone no matter what path of life you’re in. Enjoy.”
Thank you so much, Lexi. I love this focus on health. That’s what this weight loss journey is all about to me. Your physical, mental, and emotional health changing and improving. And it works together as you know by now. You can lose weight, but your brain comes with you, so it won’t last unless the change goes more than skin deep.
I also think a focus on health and wellness in terms of our goals can keep us motivated and moving forward, more than a summer bikini bod type goal. Not that that doesn’t work, but I love connecting to something that we value and I see it being so much more effective in the long-term.
So over the last four or so months, COVID has changed life quite a bit for most of us. We are limited in what we can do and where we can go and with whom, among many other changes. And I’ve been pondering how this global pandemic will change things for us in the future when it comes to public safety protocols and travel and other things.
I remember a time when you could walk all the way to the gate to pick up a family member or a friend at the airport. And you could bring basically whatever in your bag, including full-size shampoo bottles if you wanted. And you could show up in the nick of time for your flight and know that you could run straight to the gate and get on the plane without any other delay besides parking.
And then 9/11 happened. And our travel experience is now very different than it used to be. So many security measures in place to protect us that were once not necessary, we thought, or even a consideration at all. Like did you ever think you would be taking your shoes off in public at any point?
It was never a thing I thought when I was seven years old. My husband doesn’t like to carry a wallet, so instead, he prefers the sleek simplicity of a money clip. And I cannot tell you how many times he or his bag has been pulled aside after being scanned because they think the money clip is a weapon he’s trying to sneak on to the plane.
It’s metal and it has one side that’s kind of angled so you can get your cards easily in and out. And so on the scanner, it resembles a knife. To him, it’s a super useful tool. To airport security, a potentially deadly weapon.
So I see this same phenomenon happening with my clients on their weight loss journeys. They see and use the scale, the idea of planning or overeats as weapons against themselves. They attack and harm themselves with these things, rather than engaging with them as tools that can allow them to build the skills that will help them lose weight, keep it off, and grow in the process.
It keeps them stuck, spinning, and suffering. And it’s not necessary. So let’s talk about it and what we can do about it. One of the most dangerous weapons in this arsenal is our evidence from the past. We have lots of experiences and examples from our past of how we haven’t been able to lose weight successfully.
How we can’t keep commitments to ourselves, we don’t follow through, we quit, we give in, we lose motivation, we mess up, we always end up eating off plan, we struggle on the weekends, we get thrown off by a holiday or vacation. The list goes on and on and on.
All of the evidence we see and catalogue is evidence of our past failures. And it creeps in and it cuts us down at the first opportunity. I hear it all the time from my clients. They tell me about how they were doing really well, planning, eating on their plan, and then their coworker brought in her famous chocolate chip cookies and they gave in and they ate one, and then their brain started attacking them with evidence.
This is what always happens, I have no willpower, I can never resist temptation, and on and on. We beat ourselves up with the evidence. This never turns out well because once we’re down, we start with the it doesn’t matters and I’ll start over tomorrows, which is just us quitting on ourselves, and it gets us a whole lot of nowhere.
The good news is that you don’t have to get rid of this evidence or ignore it or pretend it didn’t happen. We can instead, use it as a tool to figure out how we want to do things now. We have lots of evidence of what didn’t work or went wrong. Now we just need to ask ourselves why.
Why didn’t it work? Why did we eat the cookies when it wasn’t on our plan? Probably your brain will say things like I had to eat one so I didn’t hurt her feelings, or I didn’t want to miss out. When we get curious about the why, we can then start deciding what we want to do differently in the future.
In this case, well, first of all, you eating a cookie or not can’t affect someone else’s feelings, but we’ll get into that in another episode. That is a whole other thing. But that aside, you eating a cookie in this case hurt your feelings. It wasn’t on your plan, you didn’t keep your commitment to yourself, and that hurts. It’s disappointing, discouraging. It hurts.
And even though you didn’t miss out on eating a cookie, you did miss out on honoring you, on a learning moment where you could have realized that saying no to the cookie and feeling discomfort doesn’t kill you. It strengthens you. Saying no to someone else often means saying yes to us.
Another destructive weapon we use against ourselves is the scale. We see that number on the scale like an arrow to the heart. Am I right? We make it mean we are unworthy, inadequate, lazy, disgusting, helpless, hopeless, broken. Arrow, arrow, arrow, arrow, right?
We hide from it, we avoid it, we curse at it, desperate to protect ourselves from it. But the scale can be a super versatile and useful tool. First, it can help you assess whether what you are doing is working or not. That number is a reflection of what you are putting in your mouth and its effect on your body.
It’s three totally neutral digits. It’s information. It’s data. The process of healthy weight loss is a scientific experiment that helps us learn what works for our body and what doesn’t. And the number on the scale is a metric that we use to evaluate if the things you are eating work for you or not. That’s it.
There is no and next to the number. There’s not a little equal sign that pops up that says this number equals lazy or disgusting. It’s not how it works. That’s just your brain offering you unhelpful thoughts that sling arrows to your heart.
The scale can also provide an opportunity every single day for you to build the skill of observing your thoughts and choosing thoughts deliberately. When you step on the scale, you have a choice of what you make that number mean about you.
You can make it mean your plan isn’t working, or you can make it mean you’re going to keep working to figure it out. You can make it mean that you’re fat, or you can choose to believe it is just the effect of gravity on your body that day.
One feels terrible and makes you want to eat a milkshake, one doesn’t. It’s totally up to you. If you’re sitting there thinking, “Well Natalie, it’s impossible not to look at that number and think I’m fat, it’s just true,” I would answer with a question as usual. Is that helpful? Why are you choosing to think that?
Planning may not seem like an obvious weapon, but I see my clients torturing themselves with it daily. Simply because of how they are choosing to think about it. They choose to believe that it’s hard, that they don’t have time, that they never stick to it, so it’s a waste of time, that it doesn’t work, that they have to because I told them to.
When they believe these lies, they feel hopeless, frustrated, and resentful. Many of them still make plans, but when you are creating with obligation fuel or frustration fuel, it feels like running under water. It’s so much more difficult and painful than it needs to be.
And usually when you think it’s pointless, you don’t execute and you don’t see weight loss. Imagine that. Our brains are so dedicated to proving our thoughts true, they will create whatever you’ve decided on. Even if it’s crap that doesn’t serve you.
It will serve up the very thing you are telling it will happen. You create a plan with a thought, “I never stick to these plans anyway,” and tomorrow, when you have a choice at lunch to stick to the plan or dump it and eat cake in the break room, your brain will make sure it’s the cake because that’s what you’ve told it to do.
Don’t believe me? Test it out for yourself. Tell yourself all day, I always stick to my plan, and really believe you are living in a world where that is true. Like, imagine someone you know who always sticks to their plan and pretend to be them all day and see what happens.
When you are faced with the decision to eat the planned lunch or cake, and you remind yourself that you are a person who always sticks to her plan, say it out loud even, notice how much harder it is to eat the cake with that thought. Seriously, try it.
The truth is planning isn’t hard. It’s literally lifting up your hand enough to write words on a paper. That it is. It does not take all day. It takes less than two minutes. You don’t have to do anything I say or anyone says. You can do whatever you want.
So why do you want to create a plan? For me, the answer is simple. Because you want your adult brain to be in charge. You want the decisions about how to take care of you and your body to come from love for the future self you want to create. Not from the in the moment toddler brain who can’t see past the cake to what’s on the other side.
Planning is one of your most valuable, loving, goal-affirming, success-guaranteeing tools. It’s not torture unless you make it so with your powerful brain. You may consider sugar to be a poisonous weapon. You may not see any possible way that it could be a tool instead. It’s your enemy, right? It’s your sabotage of choice for a lot of you.
But let me offer you another way to look at it. Sugar provides a unique physiological effect that can mimic and muffle emotion. When you eat sugar, you get a flood of feel-good neurotransmitters released in your brain. This, your brain mistakes for feeling better, for relief, for comfort, for a fix, for escape from the uncomfortable emotion that you may be feeling, but it isn’t real.
It’s temporary. The stress or overwhelm or inadequacy you were feeling is still there. You just can’t hear it over the noisy party of sugar. But it will just scream louder when the party’s over. Have you guys ever been somewhere loud and raised your voice to try to talk to someone over the noise? And then the sound cut out all of a sudden and you’re left yelling in silence and feeling awkward?
Kind of what happens when the sugar’s effects wear off. The emotion seems so much louder in the void that the sugar leaves. So here’s where the tool part comes in. Your brain creates an urge for sugar to escape that feeling, but the feeling itself isn’t a threat. It’s your teacher.
Through allowing it, you increase your capacity to feel and tolerate discomfort. And through questioning it, you learn why it’s there in the first place and what incredible power you have over it. When your brain offers you an urge for sugar, you can ask, why do I want this? What am I trying to create or to escape? What am I looking for? What happens if I don’t eat it? What happens if I do?
In the space between the desire to act and the action itself is where all the answers and all of your power lie. Okay, so what about overeating? Eating past full, or eating a lot of different foods in one sitting or eating a lot of the same food in one sitting. Some of you may refer to this as binge-eating, but I like to stick to the description of the action rather than the word binge, due to the emotion that many of us have tied to that word.
So overeating is like an atomic bomb. It’s destructive in the moment. We get physically uncomfortable, all sorts of issues, all sorts of collateral damage. But then it also has some pretty insidious after effects as well. Because after the overeat comes the judgment.
And our judgment of ourselves for the action of overeating can, in many cases, be as bad or even worse than the initial action. The mental and emotional beatdown we inflict with our thoughts about what the overeating means about us as humans creates the painful experience of shame, hopelessness, disgust, guilt, regret, frustration, or despair.
Sometimes it’s an ‘and’ there instead of an ‘or.’ We pile all those things on. It’s no wonder the judgment leads us back into the cycle of more eating and more judgment that we feel powerless to get out of. Overeating doesn’t have to lead to this pain though.
Our action of overeating is part of a bigger picture. Much like with sugar, because let’s be honest, often what we are overeating includes sugar. We are overeating to numb the experience of some emotion in our body. A full body is a numb body.
If you think about a glass full of water versus an empty one, if you were to tap each one with a spoon, they would vibrate differently based on their contents. The same is true for your body. The emotion you’re experiencing is a wave of chemicals vibrating down through your body.
So it will feel different if you’re full of food and focused on that sensation instead. Once again, it comes down to understanding what we are feeling and what thoughts, what sentences are creating it. And then learning how to make the deliberate decision to do something different.
This after moment, after we overeat, after we eat off plan is a critical one. A moment of learning or of looping. I address this moment and the two others I think are pivotal to our success in episode six. So I encourage you to go listen if you haven’t, just to kind of understand it in a little bit more detail.
I also have an awesome exercise I created to help you turn this after moment from a dead-end to a path forward that you’ll find in the show notes of episode six, and I’ll link it in the show notes here as well.
The last weapon I see my clients using is a sneaky one. Silent but deadly. I know you’re imagining something different than I meant by that, but I feel like it’s a good description of this too. I imagine the scene in the Wizard of Oz when they wander into the poppy fields.
They are taken by the beauty of the poppies, and then without knowing what was happening, rendered completely powerless to the enchanted sleep-inducing flowers. That’s what I see happening as my clients attempt to use our most powerful tool: questions.
You know if you’ve listened to any of my podcasts that questions are my favorite, but some of my clients’ questions are not. Their brains are offering them poisonous thoughts disguised as questions. Questions that appear helpful and useful, but are rendering them powerless.
Questions like, what’s wrong with me? Why can’t I figure this out? How will I ever be able to do this? These questions do not produce helpful answers that move us forward. When we ask what’s wrong with me, what we’re really thinking is something is wrong with me.
And the list of things we find wrong in answer to that question goes on and on and does not serve us. It is problem rather than solution focused, and it’ll therefore set us spinning in circles. You know your questions are useful tools when they get you looking for the solutions.
Asking what’s going on with me, why did I make that choice, what am I thinking and feeling that’s creating that action, these questions get you answers that move you forward, that focus on the solution that actually help.
So just to recap quickly, turn the past into a tool by asking why it happened that way and what can I learn. Turn the scale into a tool by choosing deliberately what you want to make the number mean and using the number as data, measuring whether what you are doing is working or not.
Turn planning into a tool by looking at it as a love note to your future self. Here’s what I know you are capable of, and a plan for the very best way to take care of you. You’re welcome. With so much love. Turn sugar into a tool by noticing what it is allowing you to escape from and opening up to it instead.
Turn overeating into a tool by using the after moment as a learning opportunity. Turn questions into tools by making them solution, not problem focused.
Okay beautiful people, please rate and review the podcast and let me know that you did by going to itbeginswithathought.com/review after you do it. I send out a super fun gift every week to every review I share on the podcast, and I’d love it to be you. See you soon.
Thanks for listening to this week’s episode of Weight Loss Success with Natalie Brown. If you want to learn more about how to lose weight for the last time, come on over to itbeginswithathought.com. We’ll see you here next week.